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21 May, 2018

The Armour We Use Against Satan Must be Divine in the Institution and Only as God Appoints

[The kind or quality of armour needful Armour of God.]

             The subject of this branch is the quality or kind of that armour, the Christian is here directed to pro­vide.  It is not any trash will serve the turn; better none than not armour of proof, and none [is] such ‘but the armour of God.’  In a twofold respect it must be of God.  First, In institution and appointment.  Second, In constitution.

[The armour we use against Satan must be divine in the institution, and only as God appoints.]

             Observe First.  The Christian's armour which he wears must be of divine institution and appointment.  The soldier comes into the field with no arms but what his general commands.  It is not left to every one's fancy to bring what weapons he please; this will breed confusion.  The Christian soldier is bound up to God's order; though the army be on earth, yet the council of war sits in heaven; this duty ye shall do; these means ye shall use.  And [those who] do more, or use other, than God commands, though with some seeming success against sin, shall surely be called to account for this boldness.  The discipline of war among men is strict in this case.  Some have suffered death by a council of war even when they have beaten the enemy, because out of their place, or beside their order.  God is very precise in this point; he will say to such as invent ways to worship him of their own, coin means to mortify corruption, obtain comfort in their own mint: ‘Who hath required this at your hands?’  This is truly to be ‘righteous over-much,’ as Solomon speaks, when he will pretend to correct God's law, and add supplements of our own to his rule.  Who will pay that man his wages that is not set on work by God?  God tells Israel the false prophets shall do them no good, because they come not of his errand, Jer. 23:32; so neither will those ways and means help, which are not of God's appointing.  God's thoughts are not as man's, nor his ways as ours, which he useth to attain his ends by.  If man had been to set forth the Israelitish army, now to march out of Egypt, surely this wisdom would have directed rather to have plundered the Egyptians of their horses and arms, as more necessary for such an expedition, than to bor­row their jewels and ear-rings.  But God will have them come out naked and on foot, and Moses keeps close to his order; yea, when any horses were taken in battle, because God commanded that they should be houghed, they obeyed, though to their seeming dis­advantage.  It was God's war they waged, and there­fore but reasonable they should be under his command.  They encamped and marched by his order, as the ark moved or rested.  They fight by his command. The number is appointed by him—the means and weapons they should use—all are prescribed by God, as in the assault of Jericho.  And what is the gospel of all this—for surely God hath an eye in that our marching to heaven, and our fighting with these cursed spirits and lusts that stand in our way—but that we should fight lawfully, using those means which we have from his mouth in his Word?  This reproveth two sorts:
  Reproveth First, Those that fight Satan in ar­mour that hath no divine institution.
  1. The Papist.  Look into his armour, and hardly a piece will be found armour of God.  They fight in the pope's armour.  His authority is the shop wherein their weapons are forged.  It were a kind of penance to your patience, to repeat all the several pieces of armour with which they load silly souls —too heavy indeed for the broadest shoulders among them to bear—yea, more than the wiser sort of them mean to use.  Their masses, matins, vigils, pilgrimages, Lent-fasts, whippings, vows of chastity, poverty, with a world of such trash!—where is a word of God for these?  Who hath required these things at their hands?  A thousand woes will one day fall upon those impostors, who have stripped the people of their true armour of God, and put these reeds and bulrushes in their hands.  This may justify us in the sight of God and men for our departure from them who will force us to venture the life of our souls in such paper-armour, when God hath provided better.
  1. The Carnal Protestant, who fights in fleshly armour, II Cor. 10:3.  The apostle speaks there of ‘war­ring after the flesh,’ that is, with weapons or means which man's carnal wisdom prompts to, and not God's com­mands, and [which] so are weak.  How few are clad with other in the day of battle!
             (1.) When Satan tempts to sin, if he hath not presently a peaceable entrance, yet the resistance commonly made is carnal; the strength carnal they rest on, their own, not God's; the motive's carnal, as the fear of man more than of God; [as to which] one saith, ‘How shall I do this and sin against God?’ Many in their hearts say, How shall I do this and anger man, displease my master, provoke my parents, and lose the good opinion of my minister?  Herod feared John, and did many things.  Had he feared God, he would have labored to have done everything. The like may be said of all other motives, which have their spring in the creature, not in God; they are armour which will not out-stand shot.  If thy strength lie in a creature-lock, it may be soon cut off; if in God it will hold, as his command: It is written.  I cannot do it, but I must set my foot on the law of my Maker, or on the love of Christ.  I cannot come at my lust, but I must go over my bleeding Savior, and therefore away, foul tempter, I hate thee and thy motion.  This foundation is rock, and will stand; but if it be some carnal respect that balanceth thee, another more weighty may be found of the same kind, which will cast the scales another way.  She that likes not the man because of his dress only, may soon be gained when he comes in another habit.  Satan can change his suit, and then thy mouth will be stopped when thy carnal argument is taken off.
             (2.) When the Word or conscience rebukes for sin, what is the armour that men commonly cover their guilty souls withal?  Truly no other than carnal. If they cannot evade the charge that these bring, then they labor to mitigate it, by extenuating the fact.  It is true, they will say, I did (I confess) commit such a fault, but I was drawn in.  ‘The woman gave me, and I did eat,’ was Adam's fig-leaf armour.  It is but once or twice, and I hope that breaks no such squares. Was this such a great business?  I know jolly Christians will do as much as this comes to.  I thank God, I cannot be charged with whore or thief.  This is the armour that must keep off the blow.  But if conscience will not be thus taken off, then they labor to divert their thoughts, by striking up the loud music of carnal delights, that the noise of one may drown the other; or with Cain, they will go from the presence of the Lord, and come no more at those ordinances which make their head ache, and hinder the rest of their raving consciences.  If yet the ghost haunts them, then they labor to pacify it with some good work or other, which they set against their bad; their alms and charity in their old age, must expiate the oppression and violence of their former days; as if this little frankincense were enough to air and take away the plague of God's curse, which is in their ill-gotten goods.  Thus poor creatures catch at any sorry covering, which will not so much as hide their shame, much less choke the bullet of God's wrath, when God shall fire upon them.  There must be armour of God's appointing.  Adam was naked for all his fig-leaves, while God taught him to make 'coats of skins,’ Gen. 3:21, covertly (as some think) shadowing out Christ the true Lamb of God, whose righteousness alone was appointed by him to cover our shame, and arm our naked souls from the sight and stroke of his justice.

20 May, 2018

‘Put on the Whole Armour of God'- The Application and the Use of it!

[The Christian must be armed for the War, ‘Put on the whole armour of God.’]

[Use and Application.]

             Use First.  This takes away the wonder of Satan's great conquests in the world.  When you look abroad and see his vast empire, and what a little spot of ground contains Christ's subjects, what heaps of precious souls lie prostrate under this foot of pride, and what a little regiment of saints march under Christ's banner, perhaps the strangeness of the thing may make you ask, I shell stronger than heaven? —the arms of Satan more victorious than the cross of Christ?  No such matters.  Consider but this one thing, and you will wonder that Christ hath any to follow him, rather than that he hath so few.  Satan finds the world unarmed; when the prince of the world comes, he finds nothing to oppose; the whole soul is in a disposition to yield at first summons.  And if conscience, governor for God in the creature, stands out a while, all the other powers, as will and affections, are in a discontent, like mutinous soldiers in a garrison, who never rest till they have brought over conscience to yield, or against its command set open the city gate to the enemy, and so deliver traitorously their conscience prisoner to their lusts.  But when Christ comes to demand the soul, he meets a scornful answer.  ‘Depart from us, we desire not the knowledge of the Most High. 

We will not have this man to reign over us.’  With one consent they vote against him, and rise up as the Philistines against Samson, whom they called the destroyer of the coun­try.  ‘Ye will not come unto me,’ saith Christ.  O how true are poor sinners to the devil's trust!  They will not deliver the castle they hold for Satan till fired over their heads.  Pharaoh opposeth Moses on one hand, and Israel cry out upon him on the other.  Such measure hath Christ both at Satan's hand and the sinner's.  That which lessened Alexander's conquests was, [that] he overcame a people buried in barbarism, without arms and discipline of war; and that which heightened Caesar's, though not so many, he overcame a people more warlike and furnished. Satan's victories are of poor ignorant graceless souls, who have neither arms, nor hands, nor hearts to op­pose.  But when he assaults a saint, then he sits down before a city with gates and bars, and ever riseth with shame, unable to take the weakest hold, to pluck the weakest saint out of Christ's hands; but Christ brings souls out of his dominion with a high hand, in spite of all the force and fury of hell, which like Pharaoh and his host pursue them.

             Use Second.  This gives a reason why the devil hath so great a spite against the gospel.  Why? Because this opens a magazine of arms and furniture for the soul.  The word is that tower of David, ‘Builded for an armoury, whereon there hang a thousand buck­lers, all shields of mighty men,’ Song 4:4.  Hence the saints have ever had their armour, and the preaching of the gospel unlocks it.  As gospel-light ascends, so Satan's shady kingdom of darkness vanisheth, Rev. 14:6; there one angel comes forth to preach the everlasting gospel, and another angel follows at his back, ver. 8, crying Victory, ‘Babylon is fallen, is fallen.’  The very first charge the gospel gave to the kingdom of darkness, shook the foundations thereof, and put the legions of hell to the run.  The seventy whom Christ sent out, bring this speedy account of their ambassage, ‘Lord, even the devils are subject unto us through thy name;’ and Christ answers, ‘I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven.’  As if he had said, It is no news you tell me, I beheld Satan falling when I sent you: I knew the gospel would make work where it came: and therefore no wonder Satan labors to dispossess the gospel, which dispos­sesseth him; he knows that army is near lost, whose magazine is blown up. 

It is true indeed, under the very gospel the devil rageth more in such swinish sinners, as are given over of God to be possessed of that fiend, for rejecting of his grace; but he is cast out of others, who ‘before the loving-kindness of God to man appeared in the gospel,’ were commanded by him, ‘serving divers lusts and pleasures;’ but now by the light of the gospel they see their folly, and by the grace it brings are enabled to renounce him.  This, this is that which torments the foul spirit, to see himself forsaken of his old friends and servants, and this new Lord to come and take his subjects from him: and therefore he labours either by persecution to drive the gospel away, or by policy to persuade a people to send it away from their coasts.  And was he ever more likely to effect it among us?  What a low esteem hath he brought the preaching of the gospel unto? the price is fallen half and half to what it was some years past, even among those that have been counted the greatest merchants upon the saints’ ex­change.  Some that have thought it worth crossing the seas, even to the Indies—almost as far as others fetch their gold—to enjoy the gospel, are loathe now to cross the street to hear it, at so cheap a rate; and some that come, who formerly trembled at it, make it most of their errand to mock at, or quarrel wit it. 

Nay, it is come to such a pass, that the Word is so heavy a charge to the squeamish stomachs of many professors, that it comes up again presently, and abundance of choler with it, against the preacher, especially if it fall foul of the sins and errors of the times, the very naming of which is enough to offend, though the nation be sinking under their weight. What reproaches are the faithful ministers of the gospel laden withal!  I call heaven and earth to wit­ness, whether ever they suffered a hotter persecution of the tongue, than in this apostatizing age.  A new generation of professors are started up, that will not know them to be the ministers of Christ, though those before them (as well in grace as time, [and] more able to derive their spiritual pedigree than themselves), have to their death owned them for their spiritual fathers.  And must not the ark needs shake, when they that carry it are thus struck at, both in their person and office?  What are these men doing?  Alas, they know not.  ‘Father, forgive them.’  They are cutting off their right hand with their left; they are making themselves and the nation naked, by despi­sing the gospel, and those that bring it.
  Use Third. Consider your deplored estate, [you] who are wholly naked and unarmed.  Can you pity the beggar at your door (when you see such in a winter day, shivering with naked backs, exposed to the fury of the cold), and not pity your own far more dismal soul-nakedness, by which thou liest open to heaven's wrath and hell's malice?  Shall their naked­ness cover them with shame, fill them with fear of perishing, which makes them with pitiful moans knock and cry for relief, as it is reported of Russia, where their poor, through extreme necessity, have this desperate manner of begging in their streets: ‘Give me and cut me, give me and kill me.’  And canst thou let Satan come and cut thy throat in thy bed of sloth, rather than accept of clothes to cover, yea, armour to defend thee?—I mean Christ and his grace, which in the gospel is tendered to you.  Do not lightly believe your own flattering hearts, if they shall tell you, You are provided of these already.  I am afraid many a gaudy professor will be found as naked in regard of Christ, and truth of grace, as drunkards and swearers themselves.  Such there are, who content themselves with a Christ in profession, in gifts, and in duties, but seek not a Christ in solid grace, and so perish.  Those indeed are an ornament to the Christian, as the scarf and feather to the soldier, but these quench not the bullet in battle; it is Christ and his grace [that] doth that.  Therefore labour to be sound rather than brave Christians.  Grace embel­lished with gifts, is more beautiful, but these without grace are only the richer spoil for Satan.

19 May, 2018

The Christian Must Be Armed for the War ‘Put on the Whole Armour of God'

[The Christian must be armed for the War, ‘Put on the whole armour of God.’]

             In this part we have a direction annexed to the former exhortation, showing how we may in a regular way come to be strong in the Lord, that is, by putting on the whole ‘armour of God.’  In this observe, first, The furniture he directs, and that is ‘armour.’  second, The kind or quality of this armour—‘armour of God.’  third, The quantity or entireness of the armour—the ‘whole’ armour of God.  fourth, The use of this armour—‘put on’ the whole armour of God.

[The furniture or armour needful —what it is.]

             To begin with the first, the furniture which every one must get that would fight Christ's battles, [and that is ‘armour.’]  The question here will be, What is this armour?
             First.  By armour is meant Christ.  We read of putting on the ‘Lord Jesus,’ Rom. 13:14, where Christ is set forth under the notion of armour.  The apostle doth not exhort them for rioting and drunkenness to put on sobriety and temperance, for chambering and wanton­ness [to] put on chastity, as the philosopher would have done, but bids, ‘put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ;’ implying thus much [that] till Christ be put on, the creature is unarmed.  It is not a man's morality and philosophical virtues that will repel a temptation, sent with a full charge from Satan's cannon, though possibly it may the pistol-shot of some less solicitation; so that he is the man in armour, that is in Christ.  Again,
  Second.  The graces of Christ, these are armour, as ‘the girdle of truth, the breast-plate of righteousness,’ and the rest.  Hence we are bid also [to] ‘put on the new man,’ Eph. 4:24, which is made up of all the several graces, as its parts and members.  And he is the unarmed soul, that is the unregenerate soul, not excluding those duties and means which God hath appointed the Christian to use for his de­fence.  The phrase thus opened, the point is, to show that to be without Christ is to be without armour.

[The Christless and graceless soul is without armour, and therein his misery.]

             Observe.  That a person in a Christless graceless state is naked and unarmed, and so unfit to fight Christ's battles against sin and Satan.  Or thus, A soul out of Christ is naked and destitute of all armour to defend him against sin and Satan.  God at first sent man forth in complete armour, ‘being created in true righteousness and holiness,’ but by a wile the devil stripped him, and therefore as soon as the first sin was completed, it is written, ‘they were naked,’ Gen. 3:7, that is, [they were] poor weak creatures, at the will of Satan, a subdued people disarmed by their proud conqueror, and unable to make head against him.  Indeed it cost Satan some dispute to make the first breach, but after that he hath once the gates opened to let him in as conqueror into the heart of man, he plays rex [or king].  Behold, a troop of other sins crowd in after him, without any stroke or strife; instead of confessing their sins, they run their head in a bush, and by their good-will would not come where God is, and when they cannot fly from him, how do they prevaricate before him?  They peal one of another, shifting the sin rather than suing for mercy. So quickly were their hearts hardened through the deceitfulness of sin.  And this is the woeful condition of every son and daughter of Adam; naked he finds us, and slaves he makes us, till God by his effectual call delivers us from the power of Satan into the kingdom of his dear Son, which will further appear, if we consider this Christless state in a fourfold notion.

             First.  It is a state of alienation from God: ‘Ye were without Christ, being aliens from the com­monwealth of Israel, and strangers from the coven­ants of promise,’ &c. Eph. 2:12.  Such an one hath no more to do with any covenant-promise, than he that lives at Rome hath to do with the charter of London, which is the birthright of its own denizens, not [of] strangers.  He is without God in the world; he can claim no more protection from God, than an out-lawed subject from his prince.  If any mischief befalls him, the mends is in his own hands; whereas God hath his hedge of special protection about his saints, and the devil, though his spite be most at them, dares not come upon God's ground to touch any of them, without particular leave.  Now what a deplored con­dition is that wherein a soul is left to the wide world, in the midst of legions of lusts and devils, to be rent and torn like a silly hare among a pack of hounds, and no God to call them off!  Let God leave a people, though never so warlike, presently they lose their wits, cannot find their hands.  A company of children or wounded men may rise up, and chase them out of their fenced cities, because God is not with them; which made Caleb and Joshua pacify the mutinous Israelites at the tidings of giants and walled cities with this, ‘They are bread for us, their defence is departed from them.’ 
How much more must that soul be as bread to Satan, that hath no defence from the Almighty?  Take men of the greatest parts, natural or acquired accomplishments, who only want an union with Christ, and renewing grace from Christ.  O what fools doth the devil make of them, leading them at his pleasure, some to one lust, some to another!  The proudest of them all is slave to one or other, though it be to the ruining of body and soul for ever.  Where lies the mystery, that men of such parts and wisdom should debase themselves to such drudgery work of hell?  Even here.  They are in a state of alienation from God, and no more able of themselves to break the devil's prison, than a slave to run from his chain.
 Second.  The Christless state is a state of ignor­ance, and such must needs be naked and unarmed.  He that cannot see his enemy, how can he ward off the blow he sends?  One seeing prophet leads a whole army of blind men whither he pleaseth.  The imperfect knowledge saints have here, is Satan's advantage against them.  He often takes them on the blind side. How easily then may he with a parcel of good words carry the blind soul out of his way, who knows not a step of the right!  Now that the Christless state is a state of ignorance, see Eph. 5:8: ‘For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord.’  Ye were darkness, not in the dark, so one that hath an eye may be.  A child of light is often in the dark con­cerning some truth or promise, but then hath a spir­itual eye, which the Christless person wants, and so is darkness.  And this darkness cannot be enlight­ened, but by its union with Christ, which is expressed in the following phrase: ‘But now are ye light in the Lord.’  As the eye of the body once put out, can never be restored by the creature's art, so neither can the spiritual eye—lost by Adam's sin—be restored by the teaching of men or angels.  It is one of the diseases Christ came to cure, Luke 4:18.  It is true, there is a light of reason, which is imparted to every man by nature, but this light is darkness compared with the saints', as the night is dark to the day, even when the moon is in its full glory.  This night-light of reason may save a person from some ditch or pond—great and broad sins—but it will never help him to escape the more secret corruptions, which the saint sees like atoms in the beams of spiritual knowledge.  There is such curious work the creature is to do, which cannot be wrought by candle-light of natural knowledge.  Nay more, where the common illumination of the Spirit is superadded to this light of nature, yet there is darkness compared with the sanctifying knowledge of a renewed soul, which doth both discover spiritual truths, and warm the heart at the same time with the love of truth, having like the sun a prolific and quickening virtue, which the other wants; so that the heart lies under such common illuminations, cold and dead.  He hath no more strength to resist Satan, than if he knew not the command; whereas the Christian's knowledge, even when taken prisoner by a temptation, pursues and brings back the soul, as Abraham his nephew, out of the enemies' hands.  This hints the third notion,
Third.  The Christless state is a state of impotency: ‘For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly,’ Rom. 5:6.  What can a disarmed people that have not sword or gun do to shake off the yoke of a conquering enemy?  Such a power hath Satan over the soul [as that], Luke 11:21, he is called the strong man that keeps the soul as his palace.  If he hath no disturbance from heaven, he need fear no mutiny within; he keeps all in peace there.  What the Spirit of God doth in a saint, that in a manner doth Satan in a sinner.  The Spirit fills his heart with love, joy, holy desires, fears; so Satan fills the sinner's heart with pride, lust, lying.  ‘Why hath Satan filled thy heart?’ saith Peter.  And thus filled with Satan (as the drunkard with wine), he is not his own man, but Satan's slave.
 Fourth.  The state of unregeneracy is a state friendship with sin and Satan.  If it be enmity against God, as it is, then friendship with Satan.  Now it will be hard to make that soul fight in earnest against his friend.  Is Satan divided?  Will the devil within fight against the devil without?—Satan in the heart shut out Satan at the door?  Sometimes indeed there ap­pears a scuffle between Satan and a carnal heart, but it is a mere cheat, like the fighting of two fencers on a stage.  You would think at first they were in earnest, but observing how wary they are, [and] where they hit one another, you may soon know they do not mean to kill; and that which puts all out of doubt, when the prize is done you shall see them making merry to­gether with what they have got of their spectators, which was all they fought for.  When a carnal heart makes the greatest bustle against sin by complaining of it, or praying against it, follow him but off the stage of duty, where he hath gained the reputation of a saint—the prize he fights for—and you shall see them sit as friendly together in a corner as ever.

18 May, 2018

Objection of a Disconsolate Christian, Answered!.. Continued

  1. Ask thy soul whether thou hast been thankful for that little strength thou hast.  Though thou art not of that strength in grace to run with the foremost and hold pace with the tallest of thy brethren, yet thou art thankful that thou hast any strength at all, though it be but to cry after them whom thou seest outstrip thee in grace, this is worth thy thanks.  All in David's army attained not to be equal with his few worthies in prowess and honor, and yet did not cashier themselves: thou hast reason to be thankful for the meanest place in the army of saints, the least communications of gospel-mercy and grace must not be overlooked.  As soon as ever Moses with his army was through the sea, they strike up before they stir from the bank side, and acknowledge the wonderful appearance of God's power and mercy for them, though this was but one step in their way; [for] a howling wilderness presented itself to them, and [though] they [were] not able to subsist a few days with all their provision, for all their great victory, yet Moses will praise God for this handsel of mercy. This holy man knew the only way to keep credit with God, so as to have more, was to keep touch, and pay down his praise for what was received.  If thou wouldst have fuller communications of divine strength, own God in what he hath done.  Art thou weak?  Bless God thou hast life.  Dost thou through feebleness often fail in duty, and fall into temptation?  Mourn in the sense of these; yet bless God in that thou dost not live in a total neglect of duty, out of a profane contempt thereof, and instead of falling through weakness, thou dost not lie in the mire of sin through the wickedness of thy heart.  The unthankful soul may thank itself it thrives no better.
  2. Art thou humble under the assistance and strength God hath given thee?  Pride stops the con­duit.  If the heart begin to swell, it is time for God to hold his hand, and turn the cock, for all that is poured on such a soul runs over into self-applauding, and so it is as water spilt, in regard of any good it doth the creature, or any glory it brings to God.  A proud heart and a lofty mountain are never fruitful. Now beside the common ways that pride discovers itself, as by undervaluing others, and overvaluing itself, and such like, you shall observe two other symptoms of it.  (1.) It appears in bold adventures, when a person runs into the mouth of temptation, bearing himself up on the confidence of his grace re­ceived.  This was Peter's sin, by which he was drawn to engage further than became an humble faith, running into devil's quarters, and so became his prisoner for a while.  The good man, when in his right temper, had thoughts low enough of himself, as when he asked his Master, Is it I?  But he that feared at one time lest he might be the traitor, at another cannot think so ill of himself, as to suspect he should be the denier of his Master.  What, he?  No, though all the rest should forsake him, yet he would stand to his colors.  Is this thy case, Christian?  Possibly God hath given thee much of his mind; art thou skilful in the Word of life, and therefore thou darest venture to breathe in corrupt air, as if only the weak spirits of less knowing Christians exposed them to be infected with the contagion of error and heresy.  Thou hast a large portion of grace, or at least thou thinkest so, and venturest to go where an humble-minded Christian would fear his heels should slip under him.  Truly, now thou temptest God to suffer thy lock to be cut, when thou art so bold to lay thy head in the lap of a temptation.  (2.) Pride appears in the neglect of those means whereby the saints' graces and comforts are to be fed when strongest.  Maybe, Christian, when thou art under fears and doubts, then God hath thy company, thou art oft with thy pitcher at his door; but when thou hast got any measure of peace, there grows presently some strangeness between God and thee; thy pitcher walks not as it was wont to these wells of salvation.  No wonder if thou, though rich in grace and comfort, goest behind-hand, seeing thou spendest on the old stock, and drivest no trade at present to bring in more.  Or if thou dost not thus neglect duty, yet maybe thou dost not perform with that humility which formerly beautified the same: then thou prayed in the sense of thy weakness to get strength, now thou prayest to show thy strength, that others may admire thee.  And if once, like Hezekiah, we call in spectators to see our treasure, and applaud us for our gifts and comfort, then it is high time for God, if he indeed love us, to send some messengers, to carry these away from us, which carry our hearts from him.
             Answer Fourth.  If thy heart doth not smite thee from what hath been said, but thou hast sincerely waited on God, and yet hast not received the strength thou desirest, yet let it be thy resolution to live and die waiting on him.  God doth not tell us his time of coming, and it were boldness to set on of our own heads.  Go, saith Christ, to his disciples, ‘tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high,’ Luke 24:49.  Thus he saith to thee, Stay at Jerusalem, wait on him in the means he hath appointed, till thou beest endued with further power to mortify thy corruptions, &c.  And for thy comfort know,
  1. Thy thus persevering to wait on God will be an evidence of strong grace in thee.  The less encouragement thou hast to duty, the more [is] thy faith and obedience to bear thee up in duty.  He that can trade when times are so dead, that all his ware lies upon his hand, and yet draws not in his hand, but rather trades more and more, sure his stock is great.  What! no comfort in hearing, no ease to thy spirit in praying, and yet more greedy to hear, and more frequent in prayer.  O soul, great is thy faith and patience!
  2. Assure thyself when thou art at the greatest pinch [that] strength shall come.  They that wait on the Lord shall renew their strength: when the last handful of meal was dressing, then is the prophet sent to keep the widow’s house.  When temptation is strong, thy little strength is even spent, and thou ready to yield into the hands of thine enemies, then expect succors from heaven, to enable thee to hold out under the temptation.  Thus with Paul, ‘My grace is sufficient for thee,’ i.e. there is power from heaven to raise the siege, and drive away the tempter.  Thus with Job, when Satan had him at an advantage, then God takes him off, like a wise moderator [who], when the respondent is hard put to it by a subtle opponent, takes him off, when he would else run him down.  ‘Ye have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.  James 5:11.

17 May, 2018

Objection of a Disconsolate Christian, Answered!


Answer Second.  Christian, candidly interpret God's dealings with thee.  Suppose it be as thou say­est; thou hast pleaded the promise, and waited on the means, and yet findest no strength from all these receipts, either in thy grace or comfort.  Now take heed of charging God foolishly, as if God were not what he promiseth; this were to give that to Satan which he is all this while gaping for.  It is more becoming the dutiful disposition of a child, when he hath not presently what he writes for to his father, to say, My father is wiser than I.  His wisdom will prompt him what and when to send to me, and his fatherly affections to me his child will neither suffer him to deny anything that is good, or slip the time that is seasonable.  Christian, thy heavenly Father hath gracious ends that hold his hand at present, or else thou hadst ere this heard from him.
  1. God may deny further degrees of strength to put thee on the exercise of that thou hast more carefully.  As a mother doth by her child that is learning to go, she sets it down, and stands some distance from it, and bids it come to her.  The child feels its legs weak and cries for the mother's help, but the mother steps back on purpose that the child should put forth all its little strength in making after her.  When a poor soul comes and prays against such a sin, God seems to step back and stand at a distance, the temptation increaseth, and no visible succour appears, on purpose that the Christian, though weak, should exercise that strength he hath.  Indeed, we shall find the sense of a soul’s weakness, is an especial means to excite into a further care and diligence.  One that knows his weakness, how prone he is in company to forget himself, in passion how apt he is to fly out; if there be a principle of true grace, this will excite him to be more fearful and watchful, than another that hath obtained greater strength against such great temptations.  As a child that writes for money to his father.  None comes presently.  This makes him husband that little that he hath the better, not a penny now shall be laid out idly.  Thus, when a Christian hath prayed against such a sin again and again, and yet finds himself weak, prone to be worsted, O how careful will this, should this make such a one of every company, of every occasion!  Such a one had not need give his enemy any advantage.
  2. God may deny the Christian such assisting strength in duty, or mortifying the strength of corruption, as he desires, purely on a gracious design that he may thereby have an advantage of expressing his love in such a way, as shall most kindly work upon the ingenuity of the soul to love God again.  Perhaps, Christian, thou prayest for a mercy thou wantest, or for deliverance out of some great affliction, and in the duty thou findest not more assistance than ordinary, yea, many distractions of spirit in it, and misgiving thoughts with unbelieving fears after it.  Well, notwithstanding those defects in thy duty, yet God hears thy prayer, and sends in the mercy on purpose that he may greaten his love in thine eye, and make it more luscious and sweet to thy taste, from his accepting thy weak services, and passing by the distempers of thy spirit.  Here is less strength for the duty, that thou mayest have more love in the mercy; nothing will affect a gracious heart more than such a consideration.  See it in David, ‘I said in my haste, All men are liars.  What shall I render unto the Lord for all his benefits toward me?’  Ps. 116:11, 12.  As if David had said, Notwithstanding all the comfortable messages I had from God by his prophets concerning this matter, my own prayers, and those remarkable providences, which carried in them a partial answer to them, and performance of what was promised, yet I betrayed much unbelief, questioning the truth of the one, and the return of the other; and hath God, notwithstanding all my infirmities, fulfilled my desire, and performed his promise?  O what shall I render unto the Lord?  Thus David reads God's mercy through the spectacles of his own weakness and infirmity, and it appears great; whereas if a mercy should come in, as an answer to a duty managed with such strength of faith, and height of other graces, as might free him and his duty from usual infirmities, this might prove a snare, and occasion some self-applauding, rather than mercy-admiring thoughts in the creature.
  1. God may communicate the less of his assis­ting strength, that he may show the more of his sup­porting strength, in upholding weak grace.  We do not wonder to see a man of strong constitution that eats his bread heartily and sleep soundly, live.  But for a crazy body, full of ails and infirmities, to be so patched and shored up by the physician's art that he stands to old age, this begets some wonder in the beholders.  It may be thou art a poor trembling soul, thy faith is weak, and thy assaults from Satan strong, thy corruptions stirring and active, and thy mortifying strength little, so that in thy opinion they rather gain ground on thy grace, than give ground to it.  Ever and anon thou art ready to think thou shalt be cast as a wreck upon the devil's shore; and yet to this day thy grace lives, though full of leaks.  Now is it not worth the stepping aside to see this strange sight?  A broken ship with masts and hull rent and torn, thus towed along by almighty power through an angry sea, and armadas of sins and devils, safely into its harbor.  To see a poor dilling or rush-candle in the face of the boisterous wind, and not blown out!  In a word, to see a weak stripling in grace held up in God’s arms till he beats the devil craven!  This God is doing in up­holding thee.  Thou art one of those babes, out of whose mouth God is perfecting his praise, by ordaining such strength for thee, that thou, a babe in grace, shalt yet foil a giant in wrath and power.
 Answer Third.  If after long waiting for strength from God, it be as thou complainest, inquire whether, that which hinders, be not found in thyself.  The head is the seat of animal spirits, yet there may be such obstructions in the body as the other members may for a time be deprived of them; till the passage be free between Christ thy head and thee, thy strength will not come, and therefore be willing to inquire,
  1. Hast thou come indeed to God for strength to perform duty, to mortify corruption and the like?  Perhaps thou wilt say, Yes, I have waited on those ordinances which are the way in which he hath promised to give out strength.  But is this all?  Thou mayest come to them, and not wait on God in them.  Hast thou not carnally expected strength from them, and so put the ordinances in God's stead?  Hath not the frame of thy spirit some affinity with theirs, 'We will go into such a city, and buy and sell, and get gain?’ James 4:13.  Hath not thy heart said, I will go and hear such a man, and get comfort, and strength? And dost thou wonder thou art weak, barren and un­fruitful?  Are ordinances God, that they should make you strong or comfortable?  Thou mayest hear them answer thee, poor soul, as the king to the woman in the siege of Samaria.  Help, O prayer, sayest thou, or, O minister; how can they help except the Lord help? These are but Christ's servants.  Christ keeps the key of his wine cellar; they cannot so much as make you drink when you come to their master's house; and therefore, poor soul, stay not short of Christ, but press through all the crowd of ordinances, and ask to speak with Jesus, to see Jesus, and touch him, and virtue will come forth.

16 May, 2018

Objection From The Disconsolate Christian


   Objection Answered
[A grand objection that some disconsolate souls may raise against
the former discourse, answered.]

             Objection.  O but, saith some disconsolate Christian, I have prayed again and again for strength against such a corruption, and to this day my hands are weak, and these sons of Zeruiah are so strong, that I am ready to say, All the preachers do but flatter me, that do pour their oil of comfort upon my head, and tell me I shall at last get the conquest of these mine enemies, and see that joyful day wherein with David, I shall sing to the Lord, for delivering me out of the hands of all mine enemies.  I have prayed for strength for such a duty, and find it come off as weakly and dead-heartedly as before.  If God be with me by his mighty power to help me, why then is all this befallen me?

             Answer First.  Look once again, poor heart, into thy own bosom, and see whether thou findest not some strength sent unto thee, which thou didst overlook before; this may be, yea, is very ordinary in this case, when God answers our prayer no in the letter, or when the thing itself is sent, but it comes in at the back-door, while we are expecting it at the fore; and truly thus the friend thou art looking for may be in thine house and thou not know it.  Is not this thy case, poor soul?  Thou hast been praying for strength against such a lust, and now thou wouldst have God presently put forth his power to knock it on the head and lay it for dead, that it should never stir more in thy bosom.  Is not this the door thou hast stood looking for God to come in at?  And [yet there is] no sight or news of thy God's coming that way.  Thy corruption yet stirs, it may be is now more troublesome than before.  Now thou askest where is the strength promised to thy relief?  Let me entreat thee before thou layest down this sad conclusion against thy God or self, [to] see whether he hath not con­veyed in some strength by another door.  Perhaps thou hast not strength to conquer it so soon as thou desirest; but hath he not given further praying strength against it?  Thou prayest before, but now more earnestly, all the powers of thy soul are up to plead with God.  Before, thou wast more favorable and moderate in thy request, now thou hast a zeal, thou canst take no denial, yea, [will] welcome anything in the room of corruption.  Would God but take thy sin and send a cross, thou wouldst bless him.  Now, poor soul, is this nothing?  [Is this] no strength?  Had not thy God reinforced thee, thy sin would have weakened thy spirit of prayer, and not increased it.  David began to recover himself when he began to recover his spirit of prayer.  The stronger the cry, the stronger the child, I warrant you.  Jacob wrestled, and this is called his strength, Hos. 12:3.  It appeared, there was much of God in him when he could take such hold of the Almighty as to keep it, though God seemed to shake him off.  If thus thou art enabled, soul, to deal with the God of heaven, no fear but thou shalt be much more able to deal with sin and Satan.  If God hath given thee so much strength to wrestle with him above and against denials, thou hast prevailed with the stronger of the two. Overcome God, and he will overcome the other for thee.  Again, perhaps thou hast been praying for further strength to be communicated to thee in duty, that thou might be more spiritual, vigorous, united, sincere, and the like, therein, and yet thou findest thy old distempers hanging about thee, as if thou hadst never acquainted God with thy ail.  Well, soul, look once again into thy bosom with an unprejudiced eye, though thou dost not find the assisting strength thou prayed for, yet hast thou no more self-abasing strength? perhaps the annoyance thou hast from these remaining distempers in duty, occasion thee to have a meaner opinion of all thy duties than ever, yea, they make thee abhor thyself in the sense of these, as if thou hadst so many loathsome vermin around thee.  Job's condition on the dunghill, with all his botches and running sores on his body, appears desirable to thee, in comparison of thine, whose soul, thou complainest, is worse than his body.  O this af­flicts my soul deeply, that thou shouldst appear before the Lord with such a dead divided heart, and do his work worst that deserves best at thy hands. And is all this nothing?  Surely, Christian, thine eyes are held as much as Hagar's, or else thou wouldst see the streamings forth of divine grace in this frame of thy heart; surely others will think God hath done a mighty work in thy soul.  What harder and more against the hair than to bring our proud hearts to take shame for that whereof they naturally boast and glory?  And is it nothing for thee to tread on the very neck of thy duties, and count them matter of thy humiliation and abasing, which others make the matter of their confidence and self-rejoicing?  Good store of virtue hath gone from Christ to dry this issue of pride in thy heart, which sometimes in gracious ones [so] runs through and through their duties, that it is seen, or may be, by those that have less grace than themselves.

15 May, 2018

Acting Our Faith On The Almighty Power of God - Application of Faith and Obedience Continued...

14 May, 2018

Acting Our Faith On The Almighty Power of God - Application of Faith and Obedience Continued...

  1. In agonies of conscience that arise from the greatness of thy sins, fly for refuge into the almighty power of God.  Truly, sirs, when a man's sins are displayed in all their bloody colors, and spread forth in all their killing aggravations, and the eye of conscience awakened to behold them through the multiplying or magnifying glass of a temptation, they must needs surprise the creature with horror and amazement, till the soul can say with the prophet, For all this huge host, there is yet more with me than against me.  One Almighty is more than many mighties.  All these mighty sins and devils, make not one almighty sin, or an almighty devil.  Oppose to all the hideous charges brought against thee by them this only attri­bute.  As the French ambassador once silenced the Spaniard's pride in repeating his master many titles, with one that drowned them all, God himself, when he had aggravated his people's sins to the height, then to show what a God can do, breaks out into a sweet promise: ‘I will not execute the fierceness of mine anger;’ and why not? 'I am God, and not man,’ Hosea 11:9.  I will show the almightiness of my mercy. Something like our usual phrase when a child or a woman strikes us, I am a man, and not a child or a woman, therefore I will not strike again.  The very considering God to be God, supposeth him almighty to pardon as well as to avenge.  And this is some relief.  But then to consider it is almighty power in bond and covenant to pardon, this is more.  As none can bind God but himself, so none can break the bond himself makes: and are they not his own words, that ‘he will abundantly pardon?’ Isa. 55:7.  He will multiply to pardon, as if he had said, ‘I will drop mercy with your sin, and spend all I have, rather than let it be said my good is overcome of your evil.’  It fares with the gracious soul in this case as with a captain, that yields his castle upon gracious terms of having his life spared, and he safely conveyed to his house, there to be settles peaceably in his estate and possessions, for all which he hath the general's hand and seal, on which he marches forth; but the rude soldiers assaulting him, and putting him in fear of his life, he appeals to the general, whose honor is now engaged for him, and is presently relieved, and his enemies punished.  Thou mayest, poor soul, when accused by Satan, molested by his terrors, say, It is God that justifies; I have his hand to it, that I should have my life given me as soon as I laid down my arms and submitted to him, which I desire to do.  Behold, the gates of my heart are open to let the Prince of peace in, and is not the Almighty able to perform his promise?  I commit myself to him as unto a faithful Creator.

13 May, 2018

Acting Our Faith On The Almighty Power of God - Application of Faith and Obedience Continued..

[Use or Application.] Continued....
 Use Second.  This shows the dismal, deplorable condition of all you who are yet in a Christless state.  You have seen a rich mine opened, but not a penny of this treasure comes to your share; a truth laden with incomparable comfort, but it is bound for another coast, it belongs to the saints, into whose bosom this truth unlades all her comfort.  See God shutting the door upon you, when he sets his children to feast themselves with such dainties.  ‘Behold, my servants shall eat, but ye shall be hungry: behold, my servants shall drink, but ye shall be thirsty,’ Isa. 65:13.  God hath set his number which he provides for.  He knows how many he hath in his family: these and no more shall sit down.  One chief dish at the saints' board is the almighty power of God.  This was set be­fore Abraham, and stands before all his saints, that they may eat to fullness of comfort on it; but thou shalt be hungry.  He is almighty to pardon, but he will not use it for thee, an impenitent sinner.  Thou hast not a friend on the bench, not an attribute in all God's name, will speak for thee: mercy itself will sit and vote with the rest of its fellow-attributes for thy damnation.  God is able to save and help in a time of need; but upon what acquaintance is it that thou art so bold with God, as to expect his saving arm to be stretched forth for thee?  Though a man will rise at midnight to let in a child that cries and knocks at his door, yet he will not take so much pains for a dog that lies howling there.  This presents thy condition, sinner, sad enough, yet this is to tell thy story fairest; for that almighty power of God which is engaged for the believer's salvation, is as deeply obliged to bring thee to thy execution and damnation.  What greater tie than an oath?  God himself is under an oath to be the destruction of every impenitent soul. 

That oath which God sware in his wrath against the unbelieving Israelites, that they should not enter his rest, concerns every unbeliever to the end of the world.  In the name of God consider, were it but the oath of a man, or a company of men, that like those in the Acts, should swear to be the death of such a one, and thou wert the man, would it not fill thee with fear and trembling night and day, and take away the quiet of thy life, till they were made friends?  What then are their pillows stuffed with, who can sleep so soundly without any horror or amazement, though they be told that the Almighty God is under an oath of damning them, body and soul, without timely repen­tance?  O bethink yourselves, sinners, is it wisdom or valor to refuse terms of mercy from God's hands, whose almighty power, if rejected, will soon bring you into the hands of justice?  And how fearful a thing that is, to fall into the hands of Almighty God, no tongue can express, no, not they who feel the weight of it.
             Use Third.  This speaks to you, who are saints indeed.  Be strong in the faith of this truth, make it an article of your creed; with the same faith you believe that there is a God, believe also this God's almighty power is thy sure friend, and then improve it to thy best and advantage.  As,

12 May, 2018

Acting Our Faith On The Almighty Power of God - Application of Faith and Obedience

[Use or Application.]

             Use First.  Is the almighty power of God engaged for the saints' defence? surely then they will have a hard pull, the saints’ enemies, who meddle with them who are so far above their match.  The devil was so cunning, he would have Job out of his trench, his hedge down before he could fall on.  But so desperate are men, they will try the field with the saints, though encircled with the almighty power of God.  What folly were it to attempt or sit down be­fore such a city, which cannot be blocked up so as no relief can get in? the way to heaven cannot.  In the church's straitest siege, ‘there is a river which shall make glad this city of God,’ with seasonable succours from heaven.  The saints' fresh-springs are all from God, and it is as feasible for sorry man to stop the water-courses of the clouds, as to dam up those streams, which invisibly glide like veins of water in the earth, from the fountain-head of his mercy into the bosom of his people.  The Egyptians thought they had Israel in a trap, when they saw them march into such a nook by the sea-side.  ‘They are entangled, they are entangled;’ and truly so they had been irrecoverably, had not that almighty power which led them on, engaged to bring them off with honor and safety.  

Well, when they are out of this danger; behold they are in a wilderness where nothing is to be had for back and belly, and yet here they shall live for forty years, without trade or tillage, without begging or robbing of any of the neighbor nations; they shall not be beholden to them for a penny in their way. What cannot almighty power do to provide for his people? what can it not do to protect them against the power and wrath of their enemies?  Almighty power stood between the Israelites and the Egyptians, so that, poor creatures, they could not so much as come to see their enemies.  God sets up a dark cloud as a blind before their eyes, and all the while his eye through the cloud is looking them into disorder and confusion.  And is the Almighty grown weaker now-a-days, or his enemies stronger, that they promise themselves better success?  No, neither; but men are blinder than the saints' enemies of old, who sometimes have fled at the appearances of God among his people, crying out, ‘Let us flee, for the Lord fighteth for them.’  Whereas there be many now-a-days will rather give the honor of their discomfitures to Satan himself, than acknowledge God in the business; more ready to say that the devil fought against them, than God.  O you that have not yet worn off the impressions which the almighty power of God hath at any time made upon your spirits, beware of having anything to do with that generation of men, whoever they are.  Come not near their tabernacle, cast not thy lot in amongst them, who are enemies to the saints' of the most High; for they are men devoted to destruction.  He ripped open the very womb of Egypt, to save the life of Israel his child, Isa. 43:3.